In Joshua thus far we have seen God install Joshua as Moses’ replacement.
- God restate the promise He made to Moses concerning His gift of the promise land.
- God link the success of Joshua’s leadership to Joshua’s obedience.
- “The importance of obedience to the law as the key to Joshua’s success cannot be overestimated” – David M. Howard, Jr.
- This fact led us to explore the law and the Gospel in the OT.
- Today, Joshua begins to act in obedience.
Joshua 1:10–11 (ESV) — 10 And Joshua commanded the officers of the people, 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’ ”
Here we see Joshua’s first response to God’s promotion, promise and admonitions.
- “Joshua commanded the officers of the people” – vs. 10.
- In other words, using the leadership infrastructure setup by Moses, he delegated his authority.
- The officers were the “respected leaders in Israel, who had the Spirit of the Lord on them” – David M. Howard.
- Numbers 11:16–17 (ESV) — 16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.
Joshua called on the officers to do/say the following to the people.
- “pass through” the camp
- And tell the people to “prepare your provisions”
- Because we need to get ready to “pass over” the Jordan and “take possession” of the promise land.
It is here we see clearly what a believing response is to the Word of God.
- We already determined that Joshua was a beneficiary of the Gospel.
- He was counted as righteous and God saw him as obedient to the law – in Christ.
- This is all grace, grace, grace.
And yet, it is impossible to be the beneficiary of grace and not respond to it with action – faith w/o works is dead.
- (1) Whether that be upon one’s first exposure to it which would result in confession and repentance;
- (2) Or as we continue to grow in the grace of the Lord.
Here the author of Joshua wants us to see that Joshua’s response to God’s grace and commands was action.
- Pass through
- Pass over
- Take Possession
On some level, these four actions can exhort us to examine our Christian life and also respond with action.
- We need to “pass through” our own life taking inventory of our Christian walk.
- We need to assess what we have found and “prepare” to grow – to move from milk to meat.
- We need to do what is necessary, abandon what is necessary, add what is necessary that we might continually “pass over” self and daily surrender to Christ and grow in Christ.
- We need to constantly find hope and comfort in what we will one day “take possession” of – resurrection.
BTW – the same goes for the church body as well.
So Joshua’s words convey that he was ready to obey.
- Like his willingness to go into the promise land 40 years before, he did not hesitate to do so here.
- And his obedience and willingness as leader meant it was time to see if Israel would follow him.
- And to that end, Joshua had some specific words for the Transjordan tribes in particular.
One more important point:
This is a significant moment in the history of God’s relationship with the Hebrew people.
- “Israel is now about to convert ownership by promise into actual possession” – Mark Woudstra.
- That which was theirs by promise was about to become theirs by possession.
- This concept of ownership by promise is not foreign to the NT.
- Resurrection is an excellent example!
BTW – In case you are interested in understanding the timeline here:
“The first three-day period was spent preparing provisions (1:11), at the same time the spies went into Jericho and then hid in the hills (see 2:22; 3:2). Then, it was another three days before Israel actually crossed the Jordan (see 3:2)” – David Howard.
Joshua 1:12–15 (ESV) — 12 And to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh Joshua said, 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your little ones, and your livestock shall remain in the land that Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but all the men of valor among you shall pass over armed before your brothers and shall help them, 15 until the Lord gives rest to your brothers as he has to you, and they also take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving them. Then you shall return to the land of your possession and shall possess it, the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise.”
We can see two things here:
The first is that the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh had already taken ownership of their part of the promise land.
- How this came to be can be seen in Numbers 32 and Deuteronomy 2-3.
- Joshua repeats Moses’ words from this earlier event to them.
- Moses told them their soldiers must cross over the Jordan, “until the Lord gives rest to your brothers” – Deut. 3:20.
- The fighting men are commanded to help the rest of Israel.
- Apparently, these three tribes might be tempted to reject Joshua, but certainly not Moses.
- So it was a wise move for Joshua to repeat the words of Moses here.
BTW – Manasseh was a half-tribe because, though Joseph was their patriarch, their matriarch was his pagan, Egyptian wife.
The second is that Joshua’s words here reveal to us his understanding of the historical event that was about to take place.
- “The LORD your God is providing” (vs. 13)
- “will give you this land” (vs. 13)
- “until the LORD gives rest” (vs. 15)
- “that the LORD your God is giving them” (vs. 15)
- And we can’t leave out verse 10’s, “the LORD your God is giving you”
Joshua was not under the illusion that he or the Israelites could do this on their own.
- It is God who will be the source of the “giving” of the land and the “rest” that follows.
- It must be noted that the wisdom shown by Joshua here comes from a right understanding of God’s grace and sovereignty.
- The less in awe of these one is, the more likely it is that one would think that God is not worthy of all worship and honor.
- The more likely it becomes that one might displace God with self or another idol.
So we have seen Joshua’s initial response.
- Now, will the tribes’ response be to submit to the new leadership of Joshua?
Joshua 1:16–18 (ESV) — 16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! 18 Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.”
Some scholars point out that the answer given here is not just the answer of the Transjordan tribes.
- They suggest that the grammar makes clear that these 3 verses come from all twelve tribes.
“…the grammar of the narrative framework of the chapter (vv. 1, 10, 12, 16a) points to this response coming from representatives of all twelve tribes of Israel” – David M. Howard.
So, if true, we see that all twelve tribes fall in line behind Joshua and God.
- Joshua was chosen by God and the twelve tribes submit to God’s choice.
- No doubt an encouragement to Joshua.
And yet, the answer seems too good to be true.
- They had often said the same to Moses, and yet then proceeded to stray mightily.
- Before the golden calf incident, for example, they told Moses, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:3).
Given this propensity of the Israelites to overstate their commitment, Joshua would be wise to continue to trust in God’s “Done” work and His future promises – not the words and actions of the Israelites.
- For as we spoke of last week, the presence of God is foundational to Joshua and his success.
But, what is important to see here is that the tribes of Israel were unified behind the leader chosen by God to replace Moses – Joshua.
- The Transjordan tribes had good reasons to stay behind – but they did not do so.
- This is a powerful illustration for the church of the sacrifice needed to maintain unity.